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Queer Empowerment

Frustrations
are to be aired
in a new MU take on ‘Monologues’
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

With anger and annoyance in his voice, Dustin Hampton, 19, read a monologue from the perspective of a gay man wishing to marry his boyfriend.

“I don’t want to be united with my boyfriend,” Hampton read from his audition sheet. “I want to be married to him. ... If this is war over a word, then just give me the word. Do you want a war over a word?”

Hopeful performers squeezed into the tiny Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center in MU’s Brady Commons on Tuesday evening to audition for “The Queer Monologues,” which will be performed at the end of April. The organizers gave the performers prewritten monologues to read for their auditions.

MU freshman Patrick Buckalew transformed himself into a 7-year-old for his audition. In a child’s voice, he read about how he punched a girl on the playground for saying his family wasn’t real because it had two daddies. Buckalew read on, saying one of his daddies told him violence wasn’t the way to solve problems and that Daddy Theo tucked him in that night and called him “his little activist.”

Blaire Hines, an MU junior, spoke in her audition piece with frustration about the double life that a black lesbian can lead.

“I can’t be black in the gay community,” Hines read. “And I can’t be gay in the black community. Who I am depends on who I’m with.”

While most of the actors had only minutes to prepare their monologues, John Doerflinger, 21, has been preparing for more than a year.

The concept for “The Queer Monologues” came about in the spring of 2003 when Doerflinger and Meagan Young, an LGBT Resource Center staff member, were talking about “The Vagina Monologues” and decided there should be a version for the LGBT community. Though a full production was never organized, Doerflinger put together an open mic night at the Ragtag Cinemacafe that featured eight spoken word pieces.

In the fall of 2003, however, when “The Vagina Monologues” was being planned, Doerflinger’s name came up, and the idea of “The Queer Monologues” resurfaced. As a result, Doerflinger met with Adam Brigham, coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, and began to plan a calendar for the auditions, publicity and show times.

“All the help has been very grass-roots,” Doerflinger said. “People are volunteering lots of time to this. Meagan took care of the logistics, and Adam has given me lots of advice throughout. This is the first time we’re doing this, so we’re working from the ground up.”

The goal of “The Queer Monologues” is to empower and educate the actors, writers and audience members, Doerflinger said.

Katie Spencer, an MU doctoral student and author of a monologue, believes the monologues’ first-hand accounts are a unique way to get the audience to think about LGBT issues.

“I was involved with ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ and I really believe in the power of the personal experiences and how they can promote political dialogues,” Spencer said. “This is a palatable way to get a message across. People can connect with the personal experiences of those performing or writing. It’s a very powerful way to communicate.”

Unlike “The Vagina Monologues,” which is a published work based on interviews, “The Queer Monologues” will feature all original works penned by people in the local LGBT community.

“People can write about whatever they want,” Doerflinger said. “What it’s like to first fall in love, gay marriage, whatever is most relevant to them. It all needs to be heard.”

Spencer’s monologue focuses on social stigmas and how different forms of prejudice can overlap.

“It’s about the intersections of fat-phobia, homophobia and feminism,” Spencer said. “It deals with my personal experiences with fat-phobia, being queer and being femme.”

Doerflinger hopes that by featuring monologues such as Spencer’s, the show will be a forum for people in the LGBT community.

“This allows a group of people whose voices are ignored to be heard,” Doerflinger said. “They are given a lot of attention by the media, but you really never hear what they themselves have to say.”

Straight people, however, can also benefit from hearing the personal stories of LGBT community members, Doerflinger said.

“This can offer a perspective that straight people can’t get on their own,” Doerflinger said. “In one way, it can be less intimidating than sitting down and talking with someone about their sexuality. On the other hand, it may be more intimidating to some because it’s just going to be out there and in your face.”

The monologues might deepen the understanding of the true struggles of the LGBT community instead of the popular issues that are given media attention, Doerflinger said.

“People need to understand that this is not political and this is not religious,” he said. “These are not people fighting for something they believe in; these are people fighting for who they are.”

Spencer thinks the production will open peoples’ eyes to the diversity that exists within the LGBT community.

“The LGBT community is very diverse,” Spencer said. “The wide array of perspectives will help to deconstruct the stereotypes about the queer community.”

Because of the name and style of the production, Doerflinger is conscious of the parallels that will be drawn between it and “The Vagina Monologues.”

“I know that comparisons will be made,” Doerflinger said. “In a way, we want to stray as far as possible from ‘The Vagina Monologues.’ We don’t want this to be the Vagina Monologues 2.0.”

With no other production to follow besides “The Vagina Monologues,” which he is consciously trying not to replicate, Doerflinger said he is not sure what direction the show will take.

“It will become what it becomes,” Doerflinger said. “I would love to see this be a yearly thing.”

No matter what the outcome, to Doerflinger the production is more than simply artistic expression.

“This is a project that I really believe in,” he said. “To me, you can’t separate social justice and art, both are me.”

VOX THURSDAY

State of the Union

For five Columbia couples, the legal battles over same-sex marriage have made their daily domestic life the subject of a national debate.


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